Data Governance Program Success: Vanguard and the DGPO Best Practices Award

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data governance program“You can start a Data Governance Program well,” said Michele Koch, the VP of Membership at the Data Governance Professionals Organization (DGPO) in a recent DATAVERSITY® interview about the finalists of the 2017 DGPO Best Practices Award. “It’s sustaining the program that is very hard to do.”

The three finalists for the 2017 DGPO Best Practices award are:

“All of our finalists have accomplished maintaining their Data Governance Programs,” said Koch. “But Vanguard really stood out. They have done so much with their program. It’s quite impressive. All the judges felt this way. There was really one clear choice of a winner.”

According to the DGPO, the Data Governance Best Practices Award is given to practitioners in a:

“Non-vendor organization in recognition of the business value and technical excellence they have achieved in the design and implementation of an outstanding Data Governance program.”

There was a total of 18 submissions for the 2017 award and each submission was judged on a specific set of measures. “We took the [DGPO] categories for best practices and used those as the criteria we were going to evaluate each submission on,” said Koch. “Then our judges used a specific matrix for their evaluation.” The areas judged were:

  • Business need(s) being addressed.
  • Approach used to design, develop, and implement the program.
  • Scope and depth of the Data Governance Program as well as program longevity.
  • Communications and marketing approaches.
  • Policies, procedures, and processes established.
  • Program metrics and business value provided.

“It’s done objectively and very mathematically,” said Koch. “That way we get a clear understanding of each of the specific categories.” The submissions were only allowed a single PowerPoint presentation totaling no more than 10 slides. “We purposely asked for only 10 slides,” noted Koch. “You had to be really concise to methodically address the criteria that we asked for.”

Koch also addressed the possibility of having two or more winners, but once the results were sent back to her to calculate, there was no discrepancy; Vanguard was a unanimous choice. She affirmed:

“They started their program in 2013. They’ve established accountability. They’ve identified what their data domains were. They’ve aligned domain data stores. They’ve defined their requirements and all their policies. They established enterprise policy, global stewardship community including domain practice leads, data managers, and administrators. They provided metrics to support each thing that they did.”

DATAVERSITY also interviewed Joel Lutz, the Head of Enterprise Data Governance and Privacy at Vanguard, to get a more in-depth view of Vanguard’s Data Governance Program. Vanguard has been a prominent and well-respected investment company for over four decades, and now has more than 15,000 employees, in 16 locations worldwide, with more than $4 trillion in assets under management.

When asked about the primary drivers for developing an enterprise-wide Data Governance Program at Vanguard, Lutz named three:

“The main driver was initially Data Privacy, but when we started to really look at how to create a successful and sustainable program we took an approach that would serve our privacy needs, and address Data Quality and Data Integrity. So we worked to cover all data, not just personal information.”

He said that in the investment world the need to conform with international privacy laws and the requirements to know “where your data is; what data you have; and, where, what, and how it’s being used” was a primary impetus in creating the entire program.

Vanguard, like many other major financial enterprises, had done various projects on Master Data Management, IT Database Governance, and Regulations & Compliance over the years, but in the beginning of the entire program said Lutz: “It was the identification of international privacy risk that really drove senior executives at Vanguard to say ‘we need to have a group that is focused on this and can guide investment and development of it going forward.’” At the time (back in 2012) Lutz was doing legal work at the company with privacy. He was then asked to create the Data Governance and Privacy Program from the ground up.

He accepted and began the long process that started with building a high-performance team to analyze how to create an enterprise-wide program.  During the initial analysis, they rallied around answering a straightforward question: “What does a gold standard version of a Data Steward do on a Tuesday in March?”

And with that question as the focus they initiated the entire process of learning and synthesizing everything they could about Data Governance:

“At the end of the day,” said Lutz. “We knew if we could answer that question, we could sell the program to business operations groups by describing a vision of a fully mature program, and they’d understand what all the activities that they need to carry out in the future that we’re not doing today. We came up with a huge list of over 300 Data Governance activities and eventually narrowed it down to 33 specific Business Data Stewardship activities that our Maturity Model is built around.”

Such a narrowing down didn’t happen overnight. His team read all the books, watched webinars, spoke with industry experts, and collected their own IT experts for every ounce of Data Governance knowledge they could collect. ”We contacted the DGPO,” said Lutz. “We went to DATAVERSITY events, we studied the DMBOK [Data Management Book of Knowledge], and looked in every nook and cranny of the Data Management industry to learn everything we could.”

At the time the CMMI Data Management Maturity Model was not yet fully published, so he used a range of different Maturity Models to create one very specific to Vanguard’s needs. In mid-2016, however, they did participate in CMMI’s evaluation of their Enterprise Data Governance Program to stress test their own Maturity Model and program success.

“We created a clear vision from the beginning,” said Lutz. “And having those specific 33 activities developed and used to build our Maturity Model around drove the entire Data Governance Program.” Such clarity continues to aid the growth of the program throughout the enterprise, since Lutz and his team can present granular details to others about what’s needed to govern the entire data lifecycle when it’s time to implement new data sources and activities from other business groups. “We can help them decide who should be held accountable, help them identify their data, define the data, prioritize the data, and start working on Data Governance operations and processes.”

An essential piece of the entire Data Governance Program setup by Lutz and his team at Vanguard is their Multi-Dimensional Stewardship Model.

data governance program

Photo Credit: Vanguard Group, Inc.


“The model we created allowed us to work on standing up the entire program by working to implement an enterprise-wide framework that was consistent, but flexible where it had to be. We initially implemented it across eight domains,” said Lutz. The model accounts for how data typically moves from an operational system where it’s created or collected, to a reference system where it might be distributed, and eventually into an output system for use and reporting needs. Lutz highlighted the fact that one focus of the model was to remove the concept of data silos and data owners. Instead of a specific person or group “owning” the data, the accountability is oriented to the data itself, and the accountability shifts as it moves through all the applications and systems within the enterprise:

“I’m getting rid of the concept of data owner, because it makes people think they can or must control everything about that data, when in reality it’s the enterprise that owns the data,” stated Lutz. “The Multi-Dimensional Stewardship Model accounts for how the data moves across systems, to different groups for different purposes, rather than just perpetuating the fantasy that one person can own and govern the data where ever it is.”

The drafts for the model had as many as 18 dimensions, but eventually it was narrowed down to three primary dimensions:

“Just because you didn’t create the data,” noted Lutz. “Or because you didn’t distribute it, and are only a consumer of the data, doesn’t mean that you don’t have some responsibility for it. It takes a village to steward the data. It’s a shared responsibility so the Data Governance Program should account for that.”

He reiterated that there are still those who hold ultimate accountability around various data assets, “I have to know whose door I need to knock on when something goes wrong.” The entire Stewardship Model is meant to break down barriers to data hoarding and data silos that so often disrupt effective Data Governance in many enterprises.

“We didn’t setup the model around specific applications on purpose. We set it up around the data so the data domains are not application specific. You might have retail client data or human resources data, employee data, there’s corporate financial data, investment products data, and so forth. But, ultimately those data sets could be used by everyone, across multiple domains, and combined in many applications so our Data Stewards work with the data across the entire lifecycle.”

When asked about executive sponsorship and support, Lutz emphasized that from the beginning Vanguard executives gave full support to the Data Governance Program. “Vanguard’s corporate culture has always centered on taking a long-term view of things.” Such a view includes an understanding that implementing an enterprise-wide program would take years, so part of Lutz’s job was to show those executives progress.

“We said this is a five- to seven-year journey to get people doing things that they are not doing today [when they started], and it’s going to take that long because we have to build a foundation as we go. We have to build that into the data taxonomy, we have to build the accountability, and we have to build the technology to sustain it. The executive leadership of the company was on-board from the beginning. The company prides itself on creating a long-term vision of the future.”

Lutz ended the interview by giving three primary, overall Best Practices necessary to move forward with such a program:

  • Maintain executive support by having a clear vision from the beginning and show progress along the way through metrics and reporting.
  • Align what you ask people to do with what you can enable and sustain with technology wherever possible.
  • Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.

A short list of the many highlights provided by Lutz and Vanguard to the DGPO judges about their Data Governance Program include:

  • Over 150 Data Stewards within the Stewardship Community across all domains.
  • Over 285 datasets identified and approved.
  • Datasets mapped to over 900 data stores.
  • Over 40 regulations analyzed.
  • Over 380 business terms identified and mapped in over 600 applications.
  • Creation of a detailed communication, marketing, and education plan that includes a newsletter with outreach to over 400 members of the Data Governance community; 100s of educational materials in live webinars, classroom trainings, FAQs, articles, job aids, websites, and many others.
  • A fully implemented Enterprise Data Identification and Tracking (EDIT) System that brings together information and approvals on the data flows across the entire enterprise.
  • Detailed Enterprise Data Governance Metrics that demonstrates the business value of the entire program through people, process, and technology activities.

“We’re very thankful for the award,” said Lutz. “It’s great for all our dedicated crew that carry out this – sometimes unseen – work to get the thanks they deserve in such a visible way. This recognition really helps us all see the value of the work we’ve done.”

The Data Governance Best Practices Award will be presented during the keynote presentation at the Data Governance and Information Quality (DGIQ) 2017 Conference, co-produced by DATAVERSITY and DebTech International, on June 14, 2017 in San Diego, CA.

The judges for the 2017 Award were:

  • Anne Buff, SAS, VP of Communications, DGPO
  • Barbara Deemer, Navient, DGPO Charter Member
  • Michele Koch, Navient, VP of Membership, DGPO
  • John Ladley, First San Francisco Partners, DGPO Advisor
  • Janet Lichtenberger, Walgreens, DG Best Practices Leader, DGPO
  • Sal Passariello, Knowledgent, Treasurer, DGPO
  • Gwen Thomas, IFC/World Bank Group, DGPO Advisor

Photo Credit: Rawpixel/Shutterstock.

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